With Opening Day just over a week away, and as the makeup of the team becomes more and more clear, now seems to be the best time to be optimists, think positively, and list the reasons why the Phillies can be a playoff team once again.
- The Lineup: Four potential .900 OPS men in the heart of the order, a guy with a 36 game hitting streak riding into April, a freshly-minted World Series champion patrolling centerfield. Forgetting about the bottom of the lineup (see the forthcoming "Five Reasons Why the Phillies Won't Win" article later this week), this team is going to put a lot of runs on the board. A league leading 850 - 900 runs seems like an optimistic projection; 800 seems like a safe bet. The effects of a flawed pitching staff will be significantly reduced by a lot of crooked numbers.
- Brett Myers matures into a true ace: With some excellent games so far this spring, Myers looks like he might have taken yet another step beyond his very good 2005 season. At age 25, Myers is entering his prime, and could be the anchor the Phillies have been looking for since losing Curt Schilling in 2000.
- Pat Gillick: We've been very critical of some of Gillick's offseason moves, but merely having a GM who can make a quality trade in July, and who has the respect of "Baseball Men" throughout the league, puts the Phillies in a better bargaining position at the deadline this year, and into next season as well. Two World Series rings (even over a decade old) do speak volumes.
- Defense: Already one of the best-rated defenses in MLB by Defensive Efficiency measures, the addition of excellent centerfielder Aaron Rowand only serves to make it stronger. The Phillies may be very grateful for his services when Fly Ball Enthusiast Ryan Franklin takes the mound.
- Punching Bags: While the Mets are ostensibly stronger this season, and the Braves are still the Braves, the Marlins and the Nationals have taken huge steps back this year thanks to firesales, injuries, and the dumbest front office in the universe. The NL East, which in 2005 was the most competitive in the game's divisional history with all teams finishing .500 or better, appears that it will have a soft underbelly this season, allowing the top dog Phillies, Braves, and Mets to pad win totals in pursuit of a Wild Card berth. I'm higher on the Marlins than a lot of people, but I think they're still a year or two away from really winning ballgames, and the Nationals just need to stop being wards of the league.
Will the 2006 Phillies make the playoffs?
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